by: Ray Charbonneau
Ray Charbonneau lives with his wife Ruth and their two cats in Arlington, MA. Ray and Ruth can often be found out on the streets running, but Felix and Phoebe stay inside. For information on Ray's book, "Chasing the Runner's High: My Sixty Million-Step Program", and his other projects, visit www.y42k.com.
To open a discussion on this Meditation, please use the contact page to provide your comments.
God was very busy. He was almost ready to implement another round of updates to the universe and, like always, as He got closer to his goal, He found more and more last minute details that He needed to address.
God was wryly aware that in some ways He was similar to one of His creations, the human computer programmer. It was in the way He made changes to His universe. He’d fiddle a little here and a little there, adding features and fixing bugs, all the while edging closer and closer to his goal.
God's target was a stable instantiation of the Golden Rule. He wanted to create living, self-aware creatures with the ability to “program” their own consciousnesses and develop them until, without coercion, they would actually choose to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. The mission He'd set for himself was proving to be difficult, but God relished the challenge.
God was omniscient. He had the infinite capacity He needed to know exactly what was going on anywhere in the universe at the current moment in time. But He wasn’t omnipotent. He couldn't be - that was the impossibility that made all else possible. Besides, God had no desire to make rocks He couldn’t lift. He had better things to do.
To have infinite knowledge of all existence, God had to be part of that existence, not outside of it. God existed in the eternal Now, just like His creations. The past was gone, never to be seen again, and the future was just a possibility. That limited His abilities.
He had the power to make whatever changes He wanted. All it took was a simple effort of will, just a little twist to the image of the universe that He held in his mind, to put the changes in place. But those changes had to build on what had already occurred. God used his infinite knowledge to predict the consequences of His changes as He designed the next steps in the evolution of existence. Then, just like His creations, God had to wait and see how things actually worked out. That was what made it all interesting.
God was usually right, but even He couldn’t know the implications of every little thing in advance. Keeping the details of all of creation clear in his mind was quite godlike enough for him, thank you. That was why He used evolution as his tool to refine his creations. He learned early on that He was better off if He only made small changes at any one time. Whatever happened, God learned from it and moved on, slogging toward his goal.
In some cases, when He made things like sand or gravity, God got it right quickly, with little need for refinement. Humanity was taking him a little longer. The work was frustrating at times, but He persevered. The universe wouldn’t have been here without Him, and for some Supreme Beings, that might be enough. But God wasn’t willing to settle. He owed His creations that mercy. That was how He justified the pain He knew He was enabling by developing them as independent actors in their own right.
One of his biggest successes was when He finally managed to evolve a being with consciousness. Once He’d developed humans with self-awareness, God could start making changes by working with memes. When He could add thoughts and ideas directly into the mix, the rate of change was much faster than when God worked solely with the physical world. On the other hand, once His creations had thoughts of their own, there were many more consequences for God to predict and track. When humanity diverged in an unintended direction, the problems could be very difficult to resolve.
Soon after God developed self-aware humans, He revealed Himself to them, thinking it might be more efficient to directly involve them in His project. That was a mistake. Humans had been designed with some of God’s ability to find patterns in what they experience and use that ability to explain and predict the world around them. That didn’t mean they were capable of understanding an infinitely knowledgeable being. It turned out that humans, with their limited understanding of God and His plan, often used their pattern-building ability to rationalize some of their less desirable actions.
So God created the idea of “religion” to enhance His impact. He hoped that formalizing the relationship would give Him more direct control over the way humans used their knowledge of His existence. Instead, it just made the problem worse. God had to spend eons repairing the damage, while cringing every time a human manipulated, tortured, or killed another human “in the name of God”.
There were other slipups, though none quite as damaging. For example, God created substances that enhanced His humans’ feeling of well-being to support them while they developed the capacity to live by the Golden Rule. He also built humans with a desire to be happy so they would be more inclined to help Him toward His goal. Unfortunately, He made that desire a little too strong. God watched as humans refined things like sugar cane, barley, and coca and used them far in excess of what God had intended in an attempt to short-circuit the process and become happy instantly. God admired their ingenuity even as He labored to repair the hardships He’d caused.
God made other mistakes, but His little twists were successful more often than not. He kept plugging away at His work, tuning the universe more to His liking. When He gave humanity free will, He knew He’d set Himself up with a difficult problem, but it was the challenge that made His creation entertaining. It was hard to create interesting people who actually knew what it was that would make them happy. He expected mistakes, forgave Himself, and moved on.
Humans kept petitioning God for favors while the work continued. God was far too busy to waste time answering prayers. Besides, humans weren’t omniscient and had no idea of the consequences if God were to actually answer all their requests. Take “Peace on Earth”? God created war in the first place. Until humans were ready to live together in harmony and share freely, they needed war to stimulate their development and to use up some of the excess production generated by people as their technology advanced. If He allowed premature peace, most of the economies on the planet would stagnate and fall into ruin.
Finally, after ages of painstaking effort, God’s plan progressed far enough to where He could focus on eliminating belief in himself. There were problems with the idea, since it required hiding part of reality from His creations, but humans had proved unable to take responsibility for themselves as long as they thought there was something “out there” watching over them.
He released the “scientific method” meme into the macrocosm and watched to see how that worked. Slowly, with His guidance, people developed a stronger belief in cause and effect and let go of the idea that God was managing every little detail. As belief in Him faded, it amused Him to watch how humans kept trying to explain the other changes He continued twisting into existence. Using the same evidence, some denied evolution altogether while others insisted that evolution occurred by “natural selection” from random events. He found their ingenuity to be admirable, however misguided it may have been.
More time passed. God continued to labor over his handiwork, and His efforts began to generate humans who lived by the Golden Rule. They were scattered at first, but the example set by these early successes helped God move the macrocosm toward His goal.
God's biggest remaining problem was that whenever his efforts generated a human who met all the criteria, that human would not push his memes onto other people. She (or he, but at the start more were women) didn’t want others to force their ideas on her, so she wouldn’t work to spread her own ideas, however valid.
God redoubled his efforts, and carefully added in selected memes from human leaders to build on those early successes and evolve Buddhas, Immortal Woman Hes, and Gandhis, people who could see past their natural reticence to realize that the Golden Rule called for judicious proselytizing. They realized that if they were in an unenlightened state, they’d want someone to help them toward happiness, so they acted accordingly.
It wasn’t easy for God to get everything just right. He kept tweaking, trying to evolve people who showed the correct balance between self-reliance and cooperation, without tipping over into coercion. Every attempt by humans to try to run other people’s lives always failed miserably. It took a long time for God to stamp that impulse out. Even God couldn’t force people to act properly. That was counter to the ideals that got Him to start the project in the first place.
Finally, after an immense effort, the universe was almost perfect. God sat back and surveyed the macrocosm, enjoying the interplay among the parts of his creation. He looked at what He had done and saw that it was good. Not quite good enough yet, but there was only one thing left to fix, just one minor thing that was keeping the universe from the balance He had desired for so long. He planned His final change, anticipating and savoring the result of his final act of mercy. Then He made the tiny effort that was necessary to tweak the universe in that special way that only He was capable of, and He was gone.